Public Release: 

Sea-level rise predicted to threaten >13,000 archaeological sites in southeastern US

Researchers analyzed heritage data integrated in the Digital Index of North American Archaeology

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IMAGE: Tens of thousands of known archaeological sites are threatened by sea level rise in the southeast, and far more currently unknown and unrecorded, as shown here at low spatial resolution. view more 

Credit: Anderson et al., 2017

Sea-level rise may impact vast numbers of archaeological and historic sites, cemeteries, and landscapes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the southeastern United States, according to a study published November 29, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by David Anderson from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA, and colleagues.

To estimate the impact of sea-level rise on archaeological sites, the authors of the present study analyzed data from the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA). DINAA aggregates archaeological and historical data sets developed over the past century from numerous sources, providing the public and research communities with a uniquely comprehensive window into human settlement.

Just in the remainder of this century, if projected trends in sea-level rise continue, the researchers predict that over 13,000 recorded archaeological sites in the southeast alone may be submerged with a 1 m rise in sea-level, including over 1,000 listed on the National Register of Historic Places as important cultural properties. Many more sites and structures that have not yet been recorded will also be lost.

Large linked data sets, such as DINAA, that show what may be impacted and what could be lost across entire regions, are essential to developing procedures for sampling, triage, and mitigation efforts. Such research is essential to making accurate forecasts and public policy decisions about the consequences of rapid climate change, extreme weather events, and displaced populations. These are factors that could shape our civilization profoundly in the years to come.

Anderson notes: "Sea-level rise in the coming years will destroy vast numbers of archaeological sites, buildings, cemeteries, and cultural landscapes. Developing informatics capabilities at regional and continental scales like DINAA (Digital Index of North American Archaeology) is essential if we are to effectively plan for, and help mitigate, this loss of human history."

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Adapted from a press release provided by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville press office.

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0188142

Citation: Anderson DG, Bissett TG, Yerka SJ, Wells JJ, Kansa EC, Kansa SW, et al. (2017) Sea-level rise and archaeological site destruction: An example from the southeastern United States using DINAA (Digital Index of North American Archaeology). PLoS ONE 12(11): e0188142. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188142

Funding: The development of DINAA is funded by the National Science Foundation (Awards Numbers NSF 1217240, 1623621, 1216810, 1623644), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (Award #LG-70-16-0056-16). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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